Category Archives: Architecture

Station Cottages on the Grand Junction Railway

pen and ink monochrome
1-10 Station Cottages Baldwins Gate Staffordshire

I live a few hundred metres from the site of Whitmore’s old railway station booking office. The station itself closed in 1952. On first sight there’s nothing more remarkable than a blue plaque on a building with boarded up windows.

Even though I’ve lived in the area for 15 years, I didn’t pay much attention to it until a couple of years ago, when Staffordshire historian Andrew Dobraszczyc held a guided local history walk around Whitmore to speak about the influence that the new railway had on the buildings in our area.

Andrew informed us that construction of our present railway line, built by the Grand Junction Railway Company, began in 1835 and Whitmore was one of the principal stations on the line being the nearest to the Potteries.

station cottages photo
Roof tops of Station Cottages

During the walk, Andrew drew our attention to a short row of terraced houses tucked mostly out of sight behind the booking office. They are on a cul de-sac, set back from the main road and mostly hidden behind trees.

 

station cottages photo baldwins gate
Catching a glimpse of the cottages to the side of the Booking Office

 

When the railway first came to Whitmore, the company built four railway cottages, ‘two up, two down’ with a wash house out the back where 1841 records show that railway porters had made them their homes.

 

Station Cottages Baldwins Gate.jpg
Two friendly cats – one name Bella.

 

A few years later, another few cottages were added and they now stand at ten. These are worth recording and I made a few sketches before beginning the formal architectural drawing.

rain clouds station cottages
Second phase of the railway cottages

It’s timely to reflect on these buildings now because as I write the new HS2 railway line is mapped out to pass very close by here but this time around it won’t be stopping at Whitmore.  These buildings will remain, but there are many homes which are now up for sale where the line crosses their path.

pen and ink red ochre line drawing
First cottages to be built in the 1840’s were No’s 1-4

I will be scanning the drawing soon and plan to include this in my November exhibition at Gallery at 12 in Eccleshall. There will also be a small run of limited edition prints. Please get in touch (RonnieCruwys@drawingthestreet.co.uk) if you would like me to reserve a print.

pen and ink drawing baldwins gate station cottages
No’s 8, 9 and 10 Station Cottages, Baldwins Gate

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

A Splinter of Light

Visitors Room Ward 7D Fiona Stanley Hospital
Flowers for someone

On the top floor of the brand new Fiona Stanley hospital in Perth, there’s a dedicated visitors’ room complete with all you need to help yourself to a brew or chilled water thanks to donations from the Australian #DryJuly.  A perfect refuge for me who had just arrived from UK and was all at sixes and sevens with the seven hour time difference.

sketch of visitor room fiona stanley hospital
Boiling and Chilled water on tap, Ward 7D

This was an unplanned, hasty visit as my sister had been admitted to intensive care then moved to ward 7D.  She was so poorly.

I unplugged from all social media simply because I wanted to be fully present with my Aussie family.

My sketch book though is a great soother and even these bins became quite a focus when everything else was just too hard to take in. In spite of clear labels, when under stress – no one knows what to throw where!

bins in visitors room fiona stanley
Bins of confusion

Nights alternated between the ward and my temporary Aussie home, looking toward the river and my nieces’ childhood tree house, built to last over 20 years ago, by their Dad.

sketch of the tree house
Childrens’ tree house
sketch of gum leaves perth
Gum leaves

Every other night was spent on the recliner with Anne, on the top floor of the 5 star, state-of-the-art hospital, overlooking the city skyline.  A room with quite a view!

 

Towards the end of my visit, my sister gradually began to recover. Looking out between the blinds, we noticed an unexpected sky treat – a splinter of light which burst into a huge illuminated candle on the corner of Perth’s landmark QV1 building, designed by the architect Harry Seidler.

QV1 buildin Harry Seidler perth
5 minutes to six, a splinter of light on the QV1 building, Perth
splinter of light on harry Seidlers QV1 building
Splinter of light intensifies – 4 minutes to six
burst of light
6pm. Dazzling light on Harry Seidler’s QV1 building, Perth.

These are rare and treasured moments.

sketch of chair in Fiona Stanely hospital
Progress!

Asking to ‘go out’ for a coffee is a significant sign of improvement!

This has been an unforgettable and profoundly moving trip. Anne remains an outpatient under the watchful care of her healthcare team with a large question mark as to what treatment next. We are all so grateful for the extraordinary care, prayers and kindness given to Anne. They are received by all our family with gratitude.

going home
Farewell Perth

This post is for my nieces – with love and thanks, from Aunty Ron XX

A Stately Stoke Terrace

Pen and ink drawing of Fenton, artwork by Ronnie Cruwys
Corner of Hitchman Street and Victoria Road, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent

Hitchman Street holds some interesting connections for me. When I first saw this red brick terrace, I was on my way to to deliver a framed print of an Audlem street to Williams of Audlem. Not knowing anything about the terraces in Fenton, I looked them up when I got home.

I was surprised to find that the land that these houses were built on was purchased in 1765 by the architect William Baker of Audlem. William Baker (‘the first’ as there were a few more to follow) bought ‘the estate and manor of Fenton Culvert, together with pottery, for his second son William Baker II’ (extract from Stoke Council’s conservation area appraisal). However, it was some generations later when William Meath Baker, the great grandson of the first William, commissioned these terraces. It’s all explained in the conservation appraisal.

William Meath Baker had inherited the Baker Pottery nearby and built these houses (and many others) to provide accommodation on a philanthropic model for the workers associated with the Baker Pottery.

red brick terrace in Fenton Stoke on Trent drawn by artist Ronnie Cruwys
Hitchman Street, Fenton

The Baker Pottery has gone now, but the kilns remain.

victoria-road-baker-kilns-fenton
Baker Pottery Kilns visible from Victoria Road
Pen and ink drwing of Victorian terracotta tile rosettes
Another example of the terracotta tiles on the gables.

Looking up these old threads, it never fails to unearth other connections. When I worked as a conservation architect in Stafford, I spent ten years as part of the team looking after the repair and upkeep of the grade 1 listed Chillington Hall, the south wing which was designed by Francis Smith of Warwick in 1724. Francis Smith was the celebrity architect of the Midlands in his day and it turns out that one of Smith’s pupils was the young William Baker of Audlem, learning from the master.

I’d like to think that an appreciation of good design has been passed down the generations. It certainly  shows up here in these terraces.

To see the drawings in full as well as a few more tile sketches, please visit www.drawingthestreet.co.uk

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

 

Tile Anorak

I’ve been keeping my eyes out for terracotta tiles which jazz up the fronts of late Victorian buildings and have begun to sketch and record them – their patterns and dates if provided. I had a hunch that they might give me a means to map connections with times and places.

Yesterday I was sketching in Islington, first along the Hornsey Road and then along Upper Street when I looked up and saw the very same tiles that I had sketched on a primary school in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Terracotta tiles
246 Upper Street, Islington

Yes, I’ve turned into a tile anorak…

However, the above sketches are the tiles which I drew from Hassell St School:

Victorian terracotta tiles, Newcastle under Lyme
Hassell St School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

I’d love to know where these tiles were made. One source could be Blashfield’s

Another could be Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth.

Either way, the primary school in Newcastle-under-Lyme seems to have been ahead of the ornamental facade game by a few years – go ‘Castle!

Seen any tiles near you? Send me a pic with the location and any other info and I’ll add it to the log.

Thanks for reading and happy Friday wherever you are.

Ronnie

 

Terracotta Trail

Pen and ink stetch of terracotta tile newcastle Staffordshire Cruwys
Terracotta tile, King Street, Newcastle under Lyme

Last summer, I sketched a Victorian building in Newcastle-under-Lyme. This was a fine example with plenty of details , especially the terracotta tiles. Terracotta means ‘fired earth’ -and describes a form of  moulded clay masonry of a finer quality than standard bricks.

Sketching the building as a whole meant losing some of the finer details so I took a bit more time to draw these ornamental  terracotta tiles.

A month or so later, I was sketching in London and spotted these tiles on Cross St., Islington.

Cross St Islington.jpg

The following month I noticed more tiles on The Swimmer, the pub around the corner from where our son lives off the Holloway Road.

The Swimmer sketchbook.jpg

The Swimmer sketchbook2.jpg

It was then that I decided to keep a drawn record of all the architectural terracotta tiles that I come across whilst sketching and drawing the street as they form a quiet signature of a time and place. Looking into these tiles a little further, I read that ‘by the 1860s a number of eminent English architects had recognised terracotta’s value for mass-producing ornament and fine masonry by casting from an original, combining new technology with traditional craftsmanship’. Read more about this here

I thought I would make a start by sharing these sketched examples. The sketch below was a postcard original of the Swimmer tiles for a recent fund raiser for Shape Arts

the-swimmer-islington

Finally, I will sign off with this one sketched today – a collage of tiles from a local school – Hassell Primary, Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Hassell School tile 4.jpg

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

Leek Sunny Side

York Street, Leek, North Staffordshire
York Street, Leek

I did a double take when I walked past York Street, Leek this summer. The most ordinary row of terraced houses transformed by the green-fingered, creative occupants into a shared garden enjoyed by inhabitants and passers-by alike. What a generous attitude!

York Street, terraced houses of Leek
Street Garden

It’s been a while since I’ve drawn a residential street, the last one was Well Street in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Looking back, I seem to be getting a bit more colourful!

This drawing has now been scanned and is up in full on my website Drawing the Street. The first few prints are now ready and they look great, thanks to Simon and Valerie at Smith York Printers, a signed limited edition of only 30 prints, 60cm long and £75 each, ready to go up in Gallery at 12‘s exhibition ‘A Winter Gathering’ at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek.

Hope to see some of you there at the Foxlowe Preview on Friday 18th November, at 7:00 pm.The exhibition runs until New Years Eve.

More about drawing the second Leek street to follow soon….

Bury and hilton and terraced houses on York Street Leekt
Bury Hilton Surveyors on York Street, Leek

Thanks for reading

Ronnie

flowers on york street leek
Hearts in the window and flowers on the door

 

 

 

From Congo to Burslem

Wedgwood Institute Cruwys
Some of the intricate work above the entrance to the Wedgwood Institute, Burslem

Hello again! It’s been a while since I wrote but I’m into the last few months preparation for my final show for the icon diploma I’ve been working towards the last three years. All 12 icon students will have their work on show at the Prince’s Drawing School in Shoreditch, in 18-21 October.

There’s still plenty of drawing going on alongside and I thought you might be interested to see some work in progress pics of an elaborate doorway in Burslem, the main entrance to the extraordinarily beautiful Wedgwood Institute, here in Staffordshire.

Pencil drawing on watercolour paper with ochre wash
First light washes of English and French ochres

Quoting from its website, the Wedgwood Institute is a ‘Mid-19th century site with important artistic detail, built by public funds for adult education’. It has been included on the English Heritage list of Buildings at Risk and in 2010 named as one of the top 10 most endangered Victorian buildings. However, its future is looking much more secure now that the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and the Burslem Regeneration Company have made a commitment to its long term restoration.

Back to the drawing. One of the things we’ve learnt on the icon course is how to make our own colour from minerals. I couldn’t resist using the minerals which I’d ground up for icons on this drawing as I’d bought the raw minerals from the Burslem Lapidary Shop, just around the corner from the Wedgwood Institute.

This is a fairly big drawing, approximately A1 size on a very smooth, heavy (500gsm) watercolour paper. I sized the paper with a light wash of  English Ochre pigment and gum arabic, then used French Ochre Havanna to build up the brick colour. I’ve gone for a softer drawing in pencil as I’m hoping to portray the intricate workmanship without it looking too heavy.

pencil drawing and ochre wash of the Wedgwood Institute
Using a mix of ochres for the brick and stonework.

There are tiles laid in a basket weave patterns, in terracotta, buff and a bright green which immediately made me think of using the ‘Burslem malachite’ with a little azurite, even though it’s actually mined in the Congo!

pencil drawing of the entrance to the Wedgwood Institute
Green, terracotta and buff tiles above the Wedgwood Institute, Burslem

Hope to post more as the rest progresses.

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie